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  • Julie Katz

Are you prepared for a sudden death?

When the healthy one dies first the effects are devastating


My grandmother went into the hospital for a routine procedure. She was the primary caretaker for my grandfather and we arranged for someone to take care of him for those three days. 48 hours later she died in the hospital.


We scrambled to find him a nursing home. Between her death and his care, everything was stressful on us but more stressful for my grandfather who was not only grieving his wife, but also moving. He was very unhappy about going to a nursing home, but there was no other choice. Some of this stress could have been alleviated if we had communicated in advance.


Photo by Rhodi Lopez, Unsplash


The time to talk about these decisions are way before there is a crisis. While it may seem strange to talk about the death of someone who is healthy for their age and taking care of someone else, it is vital to do. Here are some factors to consider:


Level of care. If the surviving spouse just needs meals brought in, help with a shower, and transportation to doctors it may be doable. Someone who needs 12-24 hours of care a day is more involved and a family member needs to coordinate that. You also need to consider what will happen if the caregiver is sick. What are the contingencies if that person cannot stay alone?


Proximity to family. If no one is within a 20-30 minute drive who will be available if someone is admitted to the hospital, you have caregiver problems, or the person needs supplies delivered? It is almost impossible to live by yourself if you have severe physical impairments and no family or willing friends around.


Family situation. A sibling may be willing to take in a parent to live with them, but you should not make that decision for your siblings or bully them into that decision. While it may seem good in concept, actuality can look very different.


Prognosis. If you have a degenerative disease or dementia and you will decline, staying home may only be temporary. Moving when you are healthier is easier.


Upkeep of your residence. If you live in a house or condo that you own, who will take care of maintenance and repairs?


Cost. If the surviving spouse wants to stay at home, do they have the money to do so? Will they need to move to a cheaper place or go to a nursing home that accepts Medicaid?


These are very difficult discussions to have. Since they are only conceptual, it is even more difficult to do. However, having a difficult decision now, is much better than a painful discussion when you are already in pain from the sudden loss of a parent.


In memory of Dick Rossen.

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